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Posts Tagged ‘Welsh Assembly Government’

Further Update On Supply Chain Efficiency Scheme

18 Feb

As you are aware projects running under the SCES, such as Pembrokeshire Produce Direct and Fork2fork have appeared on numerous occasions on this blog. Both these projects where funded through the Supply Chain Efficiency Scheme. I understood that there was to be some evaluation of this so asked some questions and the wag replied.

Response to my Freedom Of Information question No 9170.

  1. Which is the independent company that has this contract and how were they awarded this work? Was it put out to tender?
  2. You have given me rough dates for publishing the final report and supporting documents as end of 2015, but are you then able to send this final document through to me? Or if that’s not possible, when and where do I know how to search for this information?

In relation to question 1

CM International was awarded the contract for the independent evaluation of the Supply Chain Efficiency Scheme on 26 November 2014. The contract was awarded via an open tender public procurement exercise on etenderwales.   

In relation to question 2

The independent evaluation of the SCE scheme is scheduled to complete by the end of September 2015. We expect therefore to publish the final report and supporting documents on the Welsh Government website by the end of 2015.

So we are only slightly further forward. But after further wag website digging I found the cost of the tender awarded was £56,375 – with £70k actually set aside for this evaluation. Which is wonderful wag work if you can get it. The SCES scheme, which the government says is an important element of the Rural Development Plan for Wales, (RDP) has been running from 2007 – 2013, with quite a few dubious projects, in my view. We’re now told wag will not have this evaluation until the end of September 2015. Wag will then take nearly three months before this will be posted on their website. So my next question is, will this be easy for us to find? I doubt that very much. But as Welsh food and drink is so important to this country why does this evaluation process have to take so long? When is there time for lessons to be learnt on wasting money?   As a cynical journalist it concerns me that it will be the end of December before we get a chance of reading these words of evaluation wisdom. So I worried that the end of 2015, when many people are on Christmas/New Year holidays, is a great time for wag to bury more bad news…………………

Something else worth highlighting for those of you going forward for tenders is that:

The Welsh Assembly Government, on behalf of the Welsh Ministers, will be conducting this procurement exercise through the etenderwales portal https://etenderwales.bravosolution.co.uk. Tender documents and other information must be downloaded from and returned through this portal.

So just in case wag have not informed you of the introduction of etenderwales, please don’t just check out selltowales, get yourselves registered on ‘etenderwales’. I’d be delighted to hear that wag had kept you updated, but maybe they’ve not!

We’re also told that:

A series of recommendations based upon the research findings will be made to inform the development of any similar scheme that may wish to be implemented by the Client in the Rural Development Programme 2014-2020.

Well it’s good to know those timings isn’t it? Bearing in mind the Rural Development Programme  now runs from 2014 -2020 but is unlikely to kick off until late 2015. Now could that be that our Welsh Labour Government might just be thinking that this timing will give them a head start for the May 2016 elections? I guess they could look at it that way and they have the power to do whatever they like, it might also fool any Welsh voters who have short memories, or don’t mind the government sitting on a stack of money and just biding their time to help their elections chances. Let’s hope I’m proved wrong ………………………………………

 
 

Concern Over Cost Of True Taste

23 Aug

No scheme like True Taste is likely to gain unanimous support, sour grapes always emerge. But the complaints we’ve had in over the years does concern me, hence my many questions to wag food, plus some through the Freedom Of Information Act, FOI. If you get complaints from losers, then jealously and a heavy dose of sour grapes are always then at the forefront of my mind, but my concerns heighten when winners tell me their experiences. I’d love to quote you specific examples, as I’ve got plenty I’d love to chat about, but as I haven’t got permission to do this, and in fairness haven’t asked for permission either, it wouldn’t be fair and I don’t want you and others trying to guess which companies I’m talking about.

So I’m talking generally and it is more than time the TT was changed, but only if lessons are learnt and whatever replaces it works better and fairer than True Taste, (TT) has. But do excuse me if I throw in my value-for-money here too.

A producer, who has been a regular winner to boot, has been talking to me about TT after reading welshfoodbites and discussed the cost of the TT and the breakdowns. We looked at the TT magazine for 2010-11, knowing that through FOI I’ve been told that final cost for 2010 was £792,832.89. I’ve counted 108 category winners from 87 companies/individuals. Fair enough, but then I broke down and worked out that each award was then valued at about £7,341 each. For those of us outside wag’s glass bubble, that’s a lot of money, it really is. This winner explained to me that they’d received no support after their win and that was another puzzle for me as wag state that the PR & Advertising comes in at £24,448.09 with Event Management/Staffing/ Catering/Venue totalling £648,900.21. The breakdown then shows Freshwater were paid £661,579.95, Quadrant were paid £112,001.59 and Focus PR paid £2,305.20. Well that’s a lot of PR paid for, but too many producers are telling me they got very little out of it. But why’s that? Did wag ever do a survey to find our how effective the PR people they were paying were……? Sorry that was a joke – no more surveys please!!!!

I also noticed that of the 87 winners that year, 41% of them came from SA postcode. Now if that sounds silly to you, I’ll explain my thinking further. I’ve always had a sneaky feeling that wherever the TT Awards night was held, meant that the county hosting the event and the surrounding area got a more than fair proportion of the winners, ok I’m cynical, but you know that by now. So I raised another FOI asking for a full list of all the entrants and showing the counties. Surprisingly I was told that wag food didn’t have this information, i.e. wag food didn’t write at all to the entrants. ……do you believe that? No of course not, and neither did I. So I followed wag’s procedure when you are dissatisfied with a response and predictably got nowhere, yet again, hardly a shock.

Undeterred I took the final step when you are still unhappy, which is an underestimation of quite how was feeling by then, so I went to the Information Commissioners Office. They were very efficient and helpful. I quickly got a phone call from them asking if the postcodes of all the applicants would suffice. Well of course it did. The officer also said if I needed any further help just to let her know.

My final question is why were wag food so obstructive on this matter when any idiot could have worked out, if they wished to be of assistance that is, that post codes do actually cover counties? @Here to help? No not at wag food.

In my experience, if anyone succeeds in making a mountain out of a molehill, it’s wag food. It appears their problem with me is that I ask too many questions that they’d prefer not to answer.  Well sorry wag food, asking questions is part of my job. If you worked with us and actually offered me information in the form of press releases, maybe my questions to you could be reduced, but guess that’s not likely to happen. Meanwhile I suggest you focus on pushing Welsh food and helping our Welsh food producers.

 
 

Welsh Butchers, Please Stand Up & Be Counted (FOI REF 6577)

26 Oct

On 12th October I sent in a request under the Freedom Of Information Act asking:

1. How many are there in Wales?

2. Please forward the full list of all independent butchers in Wales.

Today, 26/10,  I have been told that the Welsh Government does not hold this information. The Welsh Government have also confirmed that this information is not held by Hybu Cig Cymru / Meat Promotion Wales or the Asiantaeth Safonau Bwyd Cymru / Food Standards Agency Wales. Instead I am told by the Welsh Government: I believe that your request may be publicly available information and would suggest that you seek it through these sources.

My amazement knows no bounds with this pathetic response. Unless I am totally wrong, I understood that one of HCC’s criteria was to ‘look after Welsh butchers’. But how can they possibly do that if they are unaware how many independent butchers there are in Wales?

So to double-check, I went onto the HCC website and below is taken from their front page:

Welcome to Hybu Cig Cymru Meat Promotion Wales Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) is the organisation responsible for the development, promotion and marketing of Welsh red meat. We work with all sectors of the Welsh red meat industry – from the farmers through to the retailers, to develop the industry itself as well as develop profitable markets for Welsh Lamb, Welsh Beef and pork from Wales.

I continued my trawl through their site and couldn’t resist checking how many staff HCC employed and found 19. But then back to business and I looked up retailers. Again I have taken wordage off their site which states:

Retailers

HCC works with UK retailers – from local butchers to supermarkets – who sell Welsh red meat. HCC produce point of sale materials, such as posters and recipe booklets, which go out to retailers during the year to help them to promote Welsh red meat to their customers. These campaigns help retailers to constantly refresh their promotion of Welsh Lamb, Welsh Beef and pork from Wales to consumers. HCC regularly meets with retailers to develop new strategies for promoting Welsh red meat products to shoppers and increase visibility of the brands, which is done through promotional activities such as on-pack promotions and competitions as well as point of sale materials. HCC are constantly looking for new retail opportunities for Welsh red meat and carry out regular analysis of the latest retail data to ensure that the industry is kept informed through our monthly market bulletins as well as keeping up to date with the latest market trends. HCC has also introduced new initiatives for retailers such as the ‘Welsh Lamb and Welsh Beef Butchers’ Club’, which aims to help Welsh butchers that sell PGI Welsh Lamb and PGI Welsh Beef.

So dear reader, it would seem I can confirm that HCC must have the cleverest and most knowledgeable people working for them, as once again they purport to support Welsh retailers, unless I am totally wrong and HCC don’t count our independent butchers as retailers. Which would appear to be the case, as it’s impossible to support independent butchers if they don’t know how many there are in Wales or even where they are. My next option is to make a complaint – via the Welsh Assembly Government on this response and maybe that is what I shall do next. Would that we could all have the luxury of running our businesses in this vague manner………………………….

 
 

Local Welsh Food At Royal Welsh Show

25 Jul

There was huge relief all round that the sun shone on the showground in Builth Wells. I visited on Monday and after signing in at the press Office and able to get a cup of PG Tips …….despite the fact that Welsh Brew Tea had two stands at the show; I made my way to the Food Hall. Before I entered the Welsh Food Hall, I had to pass a mobile van selling ice-cream, nothing wrong in that you might think, but you’d be wrong, this van was Kelly’s Of Cornwall, yes guys Cornwall!!! In our Welsh Food Hall there must have been at least three Welsh producers selling ice-cream and the quality of their product I know is second to none but why should they have to compete with a van from Cornwall just outside the Food Hall? Is there a Cornwall foodie insider working on their behalf in the RWAS? Or is there another reason for Cornwall ice-cream to have such a prominent position alongside our Food Hall. Now please don’t think that Kelly’s of Cornwall is a mini family business, because I didn’t walk the entire Welsh Showground I counted a total of three Kelly stands there. Now of course I’m aware just buy looking at the ‘quality’ of some of the stands at the outer reaches of the show ground that the RWAS must take any stand that wishes to attend, but is it really beyond the comprehension of RWAS and Wag Food to put in at least some effort to push Welsh food first.

I saw a few red banners bearing Welsh Assembly Government logo, saying there were supporting rural business, but perhaps micro and small food producers don’t come under Wag’s count of rural businesses. You hardly need to be the ‘Brain of Wales’ to work out that this mobile ice-cream van could easily have been sited elsewhere, it is after all a very large show ground and all it needed was a little thought and for Wag Food to recall who they are actually working for. Perhaps this might just get me into another game of ping pong when Wag might say it is not their jurisdiction and pass it over to RWAS, but if that’s the case RWAS might care to recall that Wag is possibly their biggest single benefactor. For as I understand it Wag allegedly put into the RWAS coffers via various means £1m for the summer show. Wag ‘occasionally’ forgets that those doing the paying, do the saying too.  Wag does use this ploy elsewhere, but that is another story to be aired here later.

So that was my day off to a poor start, but could it get worse? Sadly yes it could and it did. As I walked around the Food Hall, and I did that many times during the day, what struck me, as it did when Wag first opened this building is a total lack of anywhere to sit. There where no seating areas inside at all and it got to the stage where some people had no option but to sit on the floor. Good heavens what is life coming to that this obvious one to me anyway, is not important to the powers-that-be? There was space for seating areas to be done, as they were last year, but if you go onto Preseli Coffee or visit Welsh Brew Tea for a well earned cuppa, it appears you just wander around trying to drink it. As for food if you wish to buy some of the fabulous food on offer, then you eat on the hoof or go outside and find an area of grass to camp down. People resorted to sitting on the concrete steps outside and because the weather was lovely and warm, I guess that was better than nothing for them. But this area was not cleaned on a regular basis, not sure that I actually saw that many cleaners on my travels. But surely the infamous Food Hall should be a priority for cleanliness. I did find around one corner of the Hall just a few tables and chairs, but there was no bin sited there, just a few plastic bags tied to railings and the floor was nothing short of a disgrace. The demo kitchen, which ran last year in the Food Hall wasn’t there this year, but even that extra space didn’t spur Wag to provide a seating area. I would have thought that the longer we can keep people interested in the Food Hall the more opportunities for our producers to sell to them – but what do I know? Answers by email only please!!!!!!

So Wag; if that’s your showcase of Welsh Food, your standards need to rise. There were some outstanding producers in the Food Hall and many of them were our Best Of Welsh & Borders and I was delighted to be associated with them. What a choice of food on offer but what a dreadful shame I felt that they were let down by Wag once again.

I was told that Horeb Food Centre was having some sort of event in the room above the Food Hall, but think my invite got lost in the post, unless Horeb Food Centre had nothing to tell the press.

I was told by one producer that it cost £750 for a single fronted stand and £900 for a corner stand; this includes a table and two chairs and two tickets per day. Well although this is for four days, it’s still a huge amount of money bearing in mind if you want an extra table, that’s another twenty pounds, there was no chiller area this year, but of course if you wished to hire a fridge from them they could do that – for another fee. Last year the traders had a coffee and tea machine and water provided, this year they only had water, but no explanation for the change this year, maybe they are expected to just be grateful they got water included for their £750 fee. I’ve just checked my old records for RWAS 2008. According to the letter I have it says that it costs Wag £50k plus vat to hire the old Food Hall for the summer show alone and an additional £180k plus vat for stand build, graphics and dressing. In 2010 my info states a single fronted stand £355 plus vat and £405 plus vat for a corner stand. In 2011 prices I have show £600 plus vat which is £750 for a single fronted stand and £700 plus vat for a corner stand which is £875.

Every time I go into this new Food Hall, I cannot forget that this building was designed by a food expert, no doubt at huge cost, bearing in mind the bill was £1.6m, but on the plus side at least after the first shambolic opening in 2010, the stands are no longer in long straight runs, so it does work better and allows much easier traffic flow. But that is really my only plus point. Wag Food pay the RWAS £100k per year so that they have this building for the Royal and the Winter Fair, which is a lot of money to then fail to showcase the Best Of Welsh food – and of course that figure is only the start of the costs. For the old Food Hall, Wag paid £50k per year to RWAS, so a 50% increase is not a bad earner for the RWAS is it?

Farmers’ Market
The warm weather certainly played into the hands of the Farmers’ Market which had about 10 quality stands and wooden tables and benches so people could buy and eat and drink. It proved a popular area and I hope that it is a good four days trading for our producers.

HCC -Hybu Cig Cymru

Sorry guys, I’d forgotten I’d been invited to an HCC breakfast and press conference and listened to the HCC Chairman and the Deputy Food Minister each give an address, both delighted with the export sales they have achieved this year and that they had invited a party of Italians over in an effort to win our trade for that market. I just wished I’d had both those men with me at a Slow Food Movement lunch I was invited to last week. A lady who had recently moved to Wales complained to me that she struggled to find Welsh meat in her local supermarket and why was that considering all around her cottage she’s surrounded by sheep. I suggested she rang HCC, but there was no hope that would happen, she was just so annoyed that buying Welsh meat should be a challenge. So I gave her a copy of Welsh Country magazine – highlighted her nearest butchers and she was happy.

Over the years we’ve talked to HCC endlessly by phoning, hoping we could find a way to work together and obviously help our local butchers especially those already with us on Best Of Welsh & Borders listing, but also to help local butchers in their battle against the supermarkets. We’ve even had a meeting with them, which was not fruitful and we’ve talked regularly with their PR Agency, who did tell one of my team she ‘was too passionate about Welsh food’ – can you believe that? So there’s no point me mentioning this issue again with HCC because they don’t believe what I’m saying. So no progress there for, whilst they are busy bragging about their exports.

Stubbins Marketing and Puffin Produce both had stands there, generously giving away samples and encouraging people to buy in their local supermarket – great. So this raises my next question, what’s the point of the Royal Welsh Food Hall?

It appears to me that Wag focus the food hall to help promote Welsh food to the supermarkets. Indeed the Royal Welsh has to be the show where all the UK food buyers for the bigger supermarkets and wholesalers are all present. So it follows that the larger food producers should be in attendance and presenting their produce in the most professional manner. For these companies the restrictions of the food hall maybe isn’t quite right for their companies. Perhaps a corner stand isn’t big enough for them. They might want more space, they might want more raz ma taz and to be able to offer a little hospitality on their stand. On the other hand in the promotion from the Royal Welsh, it highlights the Food Hall as a fantastic place for the farmer’s wife and the family to go and find excellent Welsh food; it doesn’t say you’ll then struggle to eat it. This is a wonderful concept and should be applauded, but the two do not really go together. Indeed by putting the two together in my view spoil both sides of this coin. This hinders supplies to the supermarkets because the buyers are not treated with true VIP hospitality as they are at some speciality wholesale shows, but for the smaller producers selling to the general public, they are hindered with supposed restrictions on sales and not good facilities for the public to enjoy the food that they purchase. I do accept that some smaller producers do wish to go the supermarket route too but this is not difficult to sort out – simply ask them!!!! There must be a better way to make more out of what should be an amazing showcase for our artisan producers and they have never needed Wag’s support more to fight the recession and for many the supermarkets too, but if only they could get that support.

I do understand that it will not be easy answer, but please WAG bring your head out of the sand and face facts, actually engage with producers and just to be clear, I mean talk to them and then listen carefully to what they say – do realise that this will not be a simple task for you because many producers simply don’t trust you as civil servants, they don’t believe you have their best interests at heart in fact many don’t think you are interested ion tghem at all. But as some members of the food team can’t even say hello to producers at these types of events, you have a long hard road to climb, but it is of your own making.

Things can be improved to the benefit of all, to the reputation of Wales as a whole and more importantly for Welsh food to all sectors of society.

The speech made by the Deputy Food Minister at the HCC breakfast was very full, and from industry people I spoke to later in the day, their view was it was very full of hot air and Bet Fred could have taken good money on the number of times that the Deputy Minister said talk. Talking is good, but only good if it is linked with listening, that is why we have one mouth and two ears. It has been said by the Deputy Minister and others from the Welsh Food Department and its many institutional offshoots, that there is very little wrong and they hear very few complaints from food producers.

All businesses know that it is looking at the weaker areas of their business and it is by improving these areas that good businesses succeed and grow, i.e. by being self critical. May be we can all learn from one of the best and brightest business men to walk the planet – Bill Gates who once said “I am self-critical … I’m always searching for things I’m NOT perfect in.”

 
 

Thanks For Supporting welshfoodbites

20 Jan

I’ve been neglecting on of my many duties which was to keep an eye on website  rankings. So today I have and thought I’d share them with you.

Welshfoodbites:    434,573

True Taste TV:   3,932,358 

True Taste:          1,967,526

(Ranking source Alexa taken over a 3 month period)

So thanks  for your support on welshfoodbites. With welshfoodbites on the highest rankings than Wag’s I can only say I’m delighted and I didn’t need their funding to do it!

Of course it’s more work  for me, but it does prove I’m doing something right – airing your views and problems which sadly are often down to wag. 

If I were Wag I’d be more than disappointed with the rankings on both my sites, but then if I were Wag I wouldn’t have two sites and increase the confusion. I’d also have on my sites things people really want to read and to learn about. 

I’m not sure whether the Welsh Assembly Government, WAG, will get the message – but they are certainly reading it otherwsie my rankings would be at their level!!

 
 

Pembrokeshire Produce Direct – Accounts

21 Dec

I have received a copy of ‘Report and Unaudited Accounts for 30 November 2010 presented by the six directors. The company accountants were not instructed to carry out an audit or a review. The directors are satisfied that the company is entitled to exemption from the requirement to obtain an audit under section 477 of the Companies Act 2006.

Turnover/sales in 2010 was £173,712* as against £72,651 in 2009, cost of sales was £156,964 this year and £52,970 in 2009. This year their operating loss was £46,776 compared to £11,808 in 2009. The loss for 2010 was £44,296. I understand that the 2009 accounts are from trading starting in March.

In 2010, sales are listed as £163,980 with an addition of £9,732 for carriage outwards. As there was no carriage outwards shown in the 2009 figures, one can assume that this figure equates to  2,163 parcels at £4.50 each (the cost of carriage that PPD charges). This number of deliveries means over this 18 month period that the average number of deliveries per week was 27.

Also under Cost of Sales, carriage is listed once again as £14,838 for 2010 and £444.00 in 2009. Under Administration, postage is shown at £4,307 for 2010, which is an awful lot of letters sent, more than 11,000 first class letters sent at standard first class postage or over 11,000 magazine type mailings with Royal Mail discounts), but there is no postage shown in 2009. The accounts show a lot of blanks under 2009, bearing in mind the PPD project started in March, including packaging, wages and salaries, NI, staff training, rent, light & heat, stationery & printing, software and postage as a few examples.    

The accounts state that during the year the company suffered trading deficits that were partially supported by revenue grant aid. The directors have reviewed the forecast of trading deficits and believe that these will be supported by ongoing grant support which has been confirmed to them by Welsh Assembly Government. The directors believe that the company will continue to trade for the foreseeable future and that the going concern basis remains appropriate. The company received a grant advance of £93,906 from Welsh Assembly Government in 2009 to be repaid from all future grant aid dependant on continued trading performance.   

Administrative expenses shown for 2010

Employee costs:                £

Wages/salaries               70,435   

Employers NI                    6,647

Staff training & welfare       825

Travel & subsistence       2,208

Motor expenses                   399

Entertaining                      1,330

I’m still unsure of how many staff PPD is employing, or if staff numbers have been reduced since the project started, but £70k on salaries is extra-ordinarily high based against performance. Reading through these accounts again though, it appears that the salaries and NI shown, are from March 2009 as well as 2010.  

I am being told many tales about PPD, what I’m interested in knowing is which people put this initial project together and what they think of PPD performance so far…………………….

Thanks for those of you that have put up your comments on welshfoodbites, and the huge support we have had from our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers.  I’ve said before and shall repeat again, if you wish to put up your comments, no-one will know who you are, unless you wish to put your full name to your views.  The only person that will know is me, and I certainly will not reveal person’s identity. As always, you have my assurance on that.  

 

 
 

Food Hall At Royal Welsh

12 Jul

I have just received a press release from the Welsh Government showing which food producers are going to be in Food Hall this year. Fifty producers are listed, but of these only 26 appear to be True Taste winners. True Taste winners is he Welsh Government’s top selection criteria, followed by products must be made in Wales and raw materials are primary agricultural produce.

The press release doesn’t say that the Welsh Government is disappointed that they’ve only attracted 26 True Taste winners, but I think if I was them I would be. True Taste (TT) is being pushed and promoted by Wag as their ‘brand’. They have invested or wasted, depending on your view of course, oodles and oodles of cash on their ‘brand’. But it’s puzzling as to why Wag can’t fill the Food Hall with TT winners, for what many view as the highlight of the Welsh year – The Royal Welsh Show.

Is the high cost of the RWAS that’s the main reason? Or is something else going on that I don’t know about? If you can shed any light on this please let me know.

 
 

Festival Criteria Is Very Shaky

28 Jun

The situation on festivals is shaky and that’s being polite. I have never had so much criticism about the way Wag have set out their criteria and then allowed some festivals to ignore it. As expected this year, festival funding has been slashed to £368,521.36 and only 31 festivals are being supported. Last year 57 festivals were supported with a budget of £529,125,70. With such budget slash, I think most people would have expected Wag to have applied just a little commonsense as to how they could give the taxpayer best-value–for-money by making best use of the funding they’ve been allocated. First Minister Carwyn Jones said: “Indeed, it is estimated that the overall economic impact of Welsh food festivals on their host communities is annually as much as £20.3m. There is a positive knock-on effect on employment in rural areas too with around 1,125 jobs linked to food festivals”.

I’m unsure whether Mr Jones is saying these figures are from last year when he funded 57 events with nearly £530k and the economic impact of £20.3m. Well £20.3m is no mean figure, so why then with such a strong economic impact, has our festival budget been slashed so harshly that Wag is now only funding 31 festivals instead of 57. Isn’t that surely going to reduce the effect of the economic impact, not to mention the impact of 1,125 jobs? I wish my limited brain power could get to grips with political thinking.    

I’ve heard so many times from Wag’s higher management that they want food festivals to be self-supporting, so if that’s the case, why are the three largest festivals: Abergavenny, (£52k) Cardiff (£37,550) and Conwy (£41k), being given nearly £131k out of this year’s budget? All these three festivals applied for the same amount of money they received last year and got it – no budget cuts there – but why not? In 08/09, Abergavenny got £37,360, Cardiff £30k and Conwy £24,665, so Wag’s self-supporting theory, is obviously that, theory. Whilst in practice these three festivals have had increasing money thrown into their rather large pots. Any chance Wag that you can clarify your self-supporting theory? 

Wag’s criteria for this year, insists that festivals have ‘food as the core activity.’

An easy example of this was that the Smallholder was shown the red card by Wag, even though Steve Shearman had been asked years ago to run this event for them. But panic not, there will be a Food Hall at the RWAS or the Winter Fair, as Wag runs both these events and funds them out of a different budget. Please don’t ask me how much those two events cost as the only way I’d get a partial answer will be to send through a Freedom Of Information question again, but a partial answer doesn’t solve the problem. 

Crymch Food & Craft festival, which has run for years, has decided not to run this year because of the, ‘food as the core activity’. Even though their food and craft were held in two separate areas, they guessed wouldn’t fund it. However Llandysul, which as far as I’m aware has had a similar split of food and craft stalls, ran again this year and were funded by Wag £9k, a reduction of £500.00 on last year. Now how can this anomaly have occurred? Wag gave Abergavenny based Miller Research, the task of visiting all their funded festivals and reporting back to them. I’ve asked for a copy of this report as I know a producer has too, but despite the fact that the organisers had their copies months ago, I’m still waiting for mine. Does that mean my copy might be edited before I get it? So how did Wag make their decisions this year? As food was not the core activity in Llandysul in previous years, why were they funded again this year? What did the Miller Research report say about Llandysul and who made the final decision for it to be funded again?

I had a press release yesterday from Hay on Wye festival, which is excellent, because despite 31 festivals being funded I shall be lucky to get 10 press releases in total from them. If festivals don’t send out press releases, they cannot possibly get any publicity and if they don’t get publicity where do the visitors come from. Festival organisers have a duty to the producers to ensure that they do their utmost to generate publicity and get people through their gates. I’m fed-up of hearing from organisers that ‘they don’t have an advertising budget’ what is core accurate is that they haven’t allocated money to advertise their event, but instead spending money on expensive chefs and aren’t bothering to tell their traders what they are doing. Traders pay their money up front and in good faith and organisers should communicate with them their plans for their event. Anyway back to Hay press releases, in the first paragraph it said busy event and estimated 4,000 people there and in the second paragraph at least 5,000 people. Well guess you can take your choice but it does raise two issues, who counted all those people as I understand it’s a free event and where on earth in Hay did all those people manage to park their cars?            

You only have to read welshfoodbites to see what massive interest and concern there is about food festivals. Regular readers will know that Wag Food Press Office have since March, refused to answer any questions from me, in case I blog it and upset as they say they have no right of reply! Well I’ve had had to remind them that when Wag food were working with us in 2008 and 2009 there was no negative food news at all published in Welsh Country magazine. Yet behind the scenes, that was a different matter. No-one should under-estimate the amount of hard work that was going behind the scenes whilst my team tried to get some communication going between the food producers and Wag. The Press Office then told me not to talk to Wag officials directly, but to talk to them. When that system didn’t work too well, I decided to create welshfoodbites in July 2010. Initially the idea was to use it for questions I wasn’t getting answers to, but in effect it has provided a forum for all foodies to air their views and ask their questions.

As far as Welsh Country is concerned, Wag sadly has now had negative coverage. We were waiting and waiting for the list of food festivals which was promised, but again did not arrive so that was published. I have no intention at all of apologizing for doing this, in fact Wag should be very grateful I haven’t devoted pages of welshfoodbites in every issue of Welsh Country. My reason for not doing so is not to save their blushes, because in the world of Wag, nothing is ever wrong. Wag appear to work under the B.S.E. rule, Blame Someone Else. The only reason, so far that I’m holding back is that I feel I should try and paint a picture of positivity in our Welsh food world. The only worry for Wag now is my pot of paint is running very, very low ……………………..……..

 
 

Welshfoodbites Versus True Taste TV – Website Rankings

17 Jun

 As of today, our rankings for welshfoodbites is @ 303,880 – source Alexa Rankings over a 3 month period, whilst Wag’s True Taste TV is way down below us @ 2,111,071.

If I were Wag Food, I’d be very concerned, especially after they took down their other food website, Wales the True Taste, WTT, on 1st April. Sorry but can’t resist the April Fools Day parody, because who with any computer web know-how, would pull down a website? Had no-one thought about working behind the original site? I’m amazed and horrified that nearly 3 months later, WTT is still not back up and running. So the difficult question for you is, any idea who is doing the re-build? Mmmmmmm, well that didn’t take long, so well done you smart people – you’re right – Wag are doing it themselves!

Now though, back to rankings. The traffic from WTT has been re-directed to Wag’s other food website, True Taste TV, which I assumed would have had twice the traffic through, especially as they have been asking for True Taste entries via the website, but why are their rankings still so poor for a site that has been running for what seems like forever. If Wag Food were a business, this would not be acceptable and could not continue, but I’m talking about the real world guys, aren’t I?    

Wag should be horrified with both their food website performances. Mind you, I’m sure deep down, they are impressed with our welshfoodbites rankings, they just don’t want to make a fuss about it!

So can I just send my thanks to you for your support, not just for welshfoodbites but for Welsh Country magazine too. We are making a huge difference, despite the many Wag barriers we have to knock down to get anywhere.

 
 

Does Wales Know Where It’s Going, Or Even Where It’s Been?

17 Jun

The Retail Sales Index recently showed a 3.5% decrease in food sales in the month of May as compared to last year. The Retail Sales Index is a monthly inquiry into retail sales and this is  sample survey carried out by the Office for National Statistics on 5,000 businesses in Great Britain. It includes all large retailers and a representative sample of smaller businesses.

The quoted comment was “Predominantly food stores sales volumes decreased this month, with a decrease of 3.5 in May 2011 compared to May 2010. This follows last months brief respite from contraction. Within predominantly non-food stores, there was volume growth across all sectors apart from household goods stores which fell for a fourth consecutive month to 6.0 per cent. Non-store retailing again saw the largest volume growth between May 2010 and May 2011 with an increase of 19.0 per cent.”

On the other hand, the British Retail Consortium, which is generally taken as representative of the High Street Multiples including the supermarkets, say that “Food Sales slowed markedly after April’s strong growth” but is still 1.9% up on a weighted 3 month average compared to a year ago. 

So do we presume from this that smaller retailers are suffering more than the ‘big boys’?

But what does this mean to Wales? I tried in vain to fine any statistics about food sales in Wales, either year on year, month on month, multiple retailers compared to direct sales, but to no avail. But bear in mind that Wag’s Food Press Office still refuse to answer my questions so this was not an easy challenge!

Wales has had an Assembly for 10 years and food, as part of Rural Affairs, is a devolved area of government (but food has now been demoted in that it only justifies a Deputy Minister). Why, as a government don’t we have these figures published for all to scrutinise and evaluate and then allow us to adjust our businesses so that they move forward and grow?  

So much money is being put into food promotion, so would it not be a good idea to find out where we are so that we can measure what effect this money is having?

If a privately owned business sector put millions of pounds* into it as a project, would they not have an accurate financial figure from where to start, as well as a target to meet that could be accurately measured? Whilst of course, being constantly monitored and adjusted along the way?

Many of our Government ideas are good, but they appear to be spending millions of pounds on ticking boxes instead of ensuring that each process has a substantial benefit to the farmers, growers, producers and food retailers down the line. Surely this should be a basic business role.

Your comments and feedback are invaluable and can I say again that any comments left on welshfoodbites are anonymous and will stay so – the only person who will know, is me and I promise you it will remain that way.

* Millions of pounds is derived from the monies spent on Food projects from the RDP and True Taste, but again accurate spending is difficult if not impossible to find.

 
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